Reaching out to the homeless can be a true challenge. Some suffer from mental illness and substance abuse problems that cause them to resist any efforts to help them… some are afraid or skeptical about offers of help.
Many find it difficult to understand why people would choose to live in a makeshift shelter rather than to accept help from the Mission. “Engaging the homeless is sometimes a long-term process,” said Chaplain Mark. “It use to take a year or two before they would finally respond.” Ever since we partnered with the Police and the areas boardwalk ambassadors it has improved. This new combination is increasing the success-rate of moving people off the streets and into a life of independence.
The reason is simple – the Mission provides an alternative to appearing before the courts." Still the work can be challenging because so many that live in this chronic state of homelessness are dealing with something far more problematic than addiction or job loss. They are dealing with a lifetime of undiagnosed mental illness. In these cases you can't really rationalize with an irrational mind. It takes a little more love and a little more patience. Once they are here the real job begins with assessment, medical checkups, and coordinating services to help stabilize and move people to better state of mind. Meals and beds are only the dressing, our goal is to heal the wounds.
On a typical day, the Outreach Chaplains head to the Boardwalk and other areas of the city where the homeless gather. He gets to know them, and offers them help by giving out coats, blankets, gloves, and socks in cold weather and bottled water in warm weather. You can help by donating needed items such as these.
Our Chaplains offer to take them back to the Mission for medical care, meals, showers, and a safe place to sleep. Not everyone responds the first time. In fact, most don't. A major part of the Outreach Chaplain's job is consistency and establishing trust. For those who do accompany a Chaplain back to the Mission, we continue the relationships by checking on them every day and helping to manage their case with the other Chaplains and coordinate with other support teams that may be able to assist.
The work is tough but we believe every life is a life worth saving. Thankfully with God's help it’s always a real possibility.